Held at Temple University in Philadelphia on Sept. 23, the summit examined current cannabis policy in Pennsylvania, both at the state and federal level, as well as the new Cannabis Pardon Program. The event was made possible by Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis Opportunities (DACO), as well as Black Cannabis Week, which was held between Sept. 18-25. In addition to Sen. Booker, numerous political representatives such as Sen. Sharif Street, Rep. Austin Davis, Rep. Jordan Harris, Rep. Darisha Parker, Rep. Chris Rabb, Former City Councilmember of Philadelphia Derek Green, and City Council member Curtis Jones were invited to participate in the discussion.
At the meeting, Booker explained how progress has been made toward legalization, but there is still work to be done. “With a majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle in support of legalization, we know that this has opportunities,” Booker said. “We need, though, to continue to evolve our focus, our vision, and our strategies to make sure that economically, socially—and especially within our criminal justice system—we are expanding fairness, equality and opportunity.”
He explained that the federal government is lagging behind in embracing legalization nationwide, which is the reason he chose to sponsor the current Senate Legalization Bill from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden. “We know there is a historic opportunity right now for our country to rectify past wrongs and to create a more just [and] fair America with more opportunity,” Booker said. “There’s still mountains to climb, but I know we will make progress. I know [we] will make it to the mountaintop. I know we will get to a point in this country, because of our labors, where justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
The second half of the conference featured the “PA Pardons Process,” which included Sen. Sharif Street as moderator, in addition to Fetterman, Luis Gonzalez of I AM More, Community College of Philadelphia, and Board of Pardons Secretary Celeste Trusty. Pennsylvania’s Marijuana Pardon Project was announced on Sept. 1 by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.
Fetterman, the chair of the program, described the state of Pennsylvania as “a place for second chances,” which will “help people get pardons quickly for stupid weed convictions.” According to Secretary Trusty, over 2,200 residents have applied so far, with 400 having come through just last week.
“This pardon project has the potential to open the door for thousands of Pennsylvanians—the college grad looking to start their career, the grandparent who’s been wanting to chaperone a field trip, or any Pennsylvanian who’s been told ‘no’ for much needed assistance. Now’s your chance,” Gov. Wolf said in his initial announcement. He also added that applicants will be notified by Oct. 13 if they will receive a public hearing. Sometime in mid-December, the Board of Pardons will vote on individual cases, and then will recommend the finalists to Wolf for final review.
Those who have a cannabis-conviction on their record have between Sept. 1-30 to submit an application to be pardoned. Qualifications include convictions relating to possession, intent to distribute small amounts of cannabis, paraphernalia-related offenses and much more. However, there are a few exceptions that could disqualify an applicant for this limited-time offering, such as being enrolled in a rehab program, being actively on probation or parole, being convicted of driving under the influence of cannabis, and more.